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Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (Top 10) Paperback – March 22, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Retro-futuristic art meets postwar expansionism and superhero psychology in this tour-de-force graphic novel. It's a prequel to the often hilarious Top 10 series, which followed the cases of the police force in Neopolis, a city populated entirely by people with superpowers who are as petty, selfish and drunk and disorderly as normal humans. In The Forty-Niners, we see the Neopolis Police Department's early days attempting to bring order to a new city created just to contain the "science heroes" on both sides of WWII. Among the problems: German skull-masked ne'er-do-wells who have some secret plan afoot, and a gang of vampires who have taken over as the mob, running the prostitution franchise and shaking down bar owners. Moore (Watchmen; From Hell) has sketched the entire pecking order of this fantastic world and the wistful nature of the superhero diaspora. "You're gonna have a lot of feelings you ain't had before," warns the mayor of the super city. "Feelin' ordinary. Feelin' uesless. Feelin' like you're in the world's biggest freak show." Moore's boundless imagination dazzles as it reinvents the archetypes of religion, mythology and comic books. Ha's subtle, fluid watercolor-like art is equally rich in background sight gags, making this a book to savor. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Ten was a 12-issue series often described as "Hill Street Blues with superheroes." Set in futuristic Neopolis, where the residents all have superpowers and a colorful, costumed constabulary maintains order, The Forty-Niners is the prequel to the series set in 1949, when extrapowered humans from both sides of World War II relocated to a city new-built for them. Among them are 16-year-old ace pilot Steve Traynor, who flew under the name of Jetlad, and his former enemy Leni Muller, the Skywitch. Steve (who is to become Neopolis' police captain) casts his lot with the city air force, while Leni joins the fledgling police department. Obstructing the effort to found a city are vampire gangsters and former Nazi scientists. The concept is shrewd and imaginative, and Moore's deft plotting, artful characterization, and dead-on dialogue make this flashback more impressive than the series that spawned it, though it wouldn't be half as convincing without Ha's intricate, realistic artwork. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
As the description says, top ten follows the lives of a squad of police officers in Neopolis, a city where basically everyone has superpowers. This leads to a lot of scaled up versions of normal problems, including traffic accidents with flying cars, super drugs, a serial killer, and a super-mice infestation. And while this plot is good, it is the characters and artwork that truly impress.
Gene Ha's artwork is good in general, but the added bonus of this comic is a plethora of backround events and jokes, so that some pages you can stare at for ten minutes before you really take everything in. And it works. My main criticism of Moore for things like Promethea and LoEG is that he focuses too much on these goofs so that the actual plot and characters suffer, but that didn't happen here.
Top Ten is an ensemble piece, with at least a dozen great characters all working together to solve the cases. Alan Moore does astoundlingly good work getting all of these people off the ground and into your hearts. And of course, his dialogue is as good as ever.
Now, the ending is only about 85% as good as it could have been. All the plot is wrapped up effectively, as were most of the characters, but two in particular are set up for a new adventure not covered in this book. Hopefully when the sequel gets converted to an ebook. But this a minor issue.
All in all, save Watchmen no other 12 issues of any comic can compete with this, and I recommend it to everyone.
While there is an overarching plot, Moore takes us on a number of detours that only add to the fun. The battle between the superpowered mice and cats and Ex-Verminator's consequent woes are probably my favorite scenes.
I thought the story developed a little too slowly, but once we get out of the opening scenes, things start rolling along nicely.
Gene Ha's artwork is incredibly detailed, and nearly every panel is filled with snarky details and references. His character drawings come across as a bit stiff, but it doesn't detract much from the visuals.
All in all, this is a graphic you'll be rereading numerous times.
***UPDATE: I would delete this review if I knew how. At least I was able to crank my rating up to the 5 stars it deserves. As it turns out, my original copy of the book ended after chapter 4, thus explaining why the story seemed incomplete to me. Buy with confidence and enjoy, but make sure you have the whole book! LOL!
Think of a smarter, funnier NYPD Blue policing a city where everyone is a super-hero, robot, movie monster, god, or mad scientist.
Dense, rewarding, and as funny as any comic you'll ever read.
My only complaint is to the publisher. Top Ten should be released in one volume, not two. It is ONE story. Duh! Do you want this to have the kind of shelf life Watchmen has or not?